HMS Queen Elizabeth makes the final preparations at Portsmouth naval base, ahead of her maiden operational deployment. Over the next 28 weeks the Carrier Strike Group will cover 26,000 miles.
A team of Belfast employees have celebrated their contribution to the Royal Navy’s latest flagship vessel after the £3 billion aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth set sail.
Workers at the Thales site in the Northern Irish capital designed and manufactured one of the key assets protecting the new 65,000-tonne vessel – a missile system on the Navy’s Wildcat helicopter.
The lightweight multi-role missile (LMM) – referred to as Martlet by the Navy – has recently entered service at sea after completing live-firing trials with Wildcat manufacturer Leonardo.
It is already in service with other land-based UK armed forces and in the Middle East and Asia.
At sea, LMM has been designed to defend against smaller, fast-moving targets or neutralising precision targets on board a ship.
HMS Queen Elizabeth also boasts contributions from a number of other Thales sites across the UK.
The vessel will be protected by an Astute Class submarine, which has been kitted out with an optronic mast – a sophisticated sensor which has replaced the traditional submarine periscope – manufactured in Glasgow, and Thales Sonar 2076 from Somerset and Manchester.
Belfast site managing director Philip McBride said the departure of the HMS Queen Elizabeth was a “massively proud moment for all employees”.
“We normally take a quiet pride in what we do and get on with the job, but this is a very high-profile, global event and so we should celebrate success,” he said.
“The key to the development of the LMM system and the other portfolio of capabilities we design, manufacture and integrate at Belfast is our significant talent pool of skills and experience established over many years.”
The Belfast site employs more than 500 people in highly skilled jobs in defence and space solutions and technologies.
Mr McBride added: “We also have a very strong supply chain in Northern Ireland, where we work collaboratively and use their expertise and ability to work in an agile and flexible manner.
“This is critical to how we operate today and in the future.
“Northern Ireland has already had a strong reputation for its engineering pedigree and I think being part of Carrier Strike Group 21 is the latest chapter in that story.
“It’s an exciting time for us as we continue to deliver the growth strategy for our business in Belfast and our local supply chain.”
Thales is a founding member of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, along with Babcock, BAE and the Ministry of Defence, which built HMS Queen Elizabeth and sister ship HMS Prince of Wales.
Thales also supplied the state-of-the-art communications system, the long-range radar and led the power and propulsion sub alliance.